Archive for June, 2012

In his battle against Barack Obama, the incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives faces Democratic attacks over his closeness to Washington’s power brokers

Paul Harris (Excerpt)

The Observer | November 7, 2010

(Submitted by Lyle Courtsal)

John Boehner 006 John Boehner’s Links to Lobbyists could be the Chink in his Political ArmorJohn Boehner fights back tears as as he recalls his rise from humble beginnings during the American midterm elections count. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

John Boehner, who is set to be the new Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, is one of the most lobby-friendly politicians in Washington, located at the centre of a web of corporate cash and influence. …

“It will become a tough issue for him. If the focus of the public goes on him and all the lobbyists around him, it could get very difficult,” said Professor Bruce Gronbeck, a political scientist at the University of Iowa and a specialist in the politics of scandal.

There is certainly a lot for Democrats and Boehner’s other political enemies to work with. His reputation in Washington circles is almost that of a Hollywood movie sterotype of the glad-handing politician with close ties to the capital’s lobbyists akin to a Hollywood movie sterotype. Several nicknames seem to sum up his style. The first is GTL, standing for “golf, tan and lobbyists”. The second is Boehnerland, a term used to describe the enormous network of powerful influence peddlers close to him who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns and have taken him on dozens of corporate-funded private trips around the country.

Boehner makes no secret of his lobbyist links. He once organised a regular meeting of politicians and lobbyists called the Thursday Group – now disbanded – at which both sides discussed a shared agenda of reducing taxes and regulations on business. His close circle of lobbyist allies consists of some of the best known names in Washington power-broking circles. One important figure is Bruce Gates, the top individual donor during Boehner’s career giving more than $70,000 to his campaigns. Gates’s wife, Joyce, spent two years as Boehner’s chief of staff and Gates himself has served as treasurer for one of Boehner’s fund-raising vehicles, the Freedom Project. He has a long list of big business clients including steel companies and is now in charge of government relations for the huge tobacco firm Altria, the parent group of Philip Morris.

Another senior lobbyist with close ties to Boehner is Henry Gandy who has lobbied for healthcare firms and financial giants such as Goldman Sachs. Other financial firms, such as Bank of America, have been represented by Marc Lampkin, once Boehner’s general counsel and now a lobbyist. Lampkin, like several other former Boehner staffers, has enjoyed the fruits of the “revolving door” between working for politicians and then working for lobbying firms. He continues to enjoy a close relationship with Boehner. The list goes on, including Sam Baptista who plays golf with Boehner and is a lobbyist representing Goldman Sachs and Discover Financial. “Many politicians have received significant money from lobbyists, but John Boehner does receive a lot of support from this industry,” said Dave Levinthal, a director at the Centre for Responsive Politics, which monitors lobbyist cash flows in Washington. “There is no indication that he is going to change his mode of operation.”

john boehner 300x180 John Boehner’s Links to Lobbyists could be the Chink in his Political ArmorOf course, every politician in Washington has links to lobbyists representing anything from banks to unions. But the scale and closeness of Boehner’s links has raised many eyebrows. Critics point to an infamous incident in 1995 when Boehner handed out cheques from the tobacco industry to politicians on the floor of Congress. He later apologised.

Watchdogs and Democrats point out that Boehner has a long record of resisting efforts to reform the lobbyist influence in Washington and has supported the agenda of big businesses. They point out that Boehner voted on measures that benefited health insurance companies and has taken large amounts of cash from the health insurance industry.He was one of only 19 congressman to vote to protect an anti-trust exemption that helped out the insurance industry, which has given him many thousands of dollars.

He has attacked regulation on steel companies at the same time as he takes money from them. He has lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency to drop a lawsuit against a steel company that supports him. While there is no proof of a direct link between donations to Boehner and specific actions, anti-lobbyist groups protest that the huge donations to politicians are not simply good will and philanthropy. One way or another, they want something back. “A lobbyist’s goal is to exact a result for a client and they are paid handsomely to do so,” said Levinthal.

Boehner and his allies dismiss such criticism as Democratic anger over their recent political defeats. They say Boehner’s actions are nothing to do with lobbyist cash and everything to do with a genuine political commitment to promoting business growth and his conservative pro-free market principles.

But anti-lobbying groups point to the huge flows of cash now flooding into the US electoral system – often via lobbyists – in the wake of a recent supreme court decision that scrapped many campaign finance reform restrictions.

Levinthal said that in the wake of that decision last week’s midterm elections had been among the most lavishly funded in US history. He said people were concerned that the sheer power of lobbyist donations could overwhelm the influence of ordinary voters. “We see that lobbyists as an industry are paid $3.5bn a year to influence lawmakers. They will have a greater opportunity to get their narrow special interests across than average Americans,” he said.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/07/john-boehner-links-lobbyists-washington

Related: The Role of Finance and the Multinationals in Right-Wing Terrorism

Der Spiegel bases claim on 2,000-page file compiled by German authorities, made public nearly 40 years after the attack that killed 11 Israeli athletes.

By Ofer Aderet

Haaretz. Jun.18, 2012

A neo-Nazi activist aided the Palestinian terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on yesterday.

The report is based on a 2,000-page file compiled by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which was made public at the request of Der Spiegel, ahead of the 40th anniversary of the massacre, to be marked this coming September.

At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, terrorists from the Palestinian paramilitary Black September organization, a wing of the PLO’s Fatah, took members of Israel’s Olympic team hostage. Two Israeli athletes were killed in the initial hostage-taking and nine were killed during a botched German rescue attempt at a Munich airport.

A document released on Sunday details a correspondence between local police in the city of Dortmund and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The correspondence reveals that seven weeks prior to the attack a man named Saad Walli, described as having “an Arab appearance,” held a suspicious meeting with a neo-Nazi activist named Willi Pohl.

Saad Walli was the alias of Abu Daoud, one of Black September’s leaders and an organizer of the Munich attack. He died in Damascus two years ago.

It seems German authorities did not act in any way to investigate Abu Daoud’s activities, or to stop them, despite this information.

According to Der Spiegel, Pohl helped Abu Daoud obtain fake credentials, including passports and other documents. In addition, he is quoted as saying that he “drove Abu Daoud around Germany, where he met Palestinians in various cities.”But Pohl, who writes detective novels under a different name, claims that he did not know he was helping the perpetrators plan what was to become the Olympics massacre.

Pohl was also reportedly linked to another planned Palestinian attack that was supposed to take place after Munich. Following instructions by Abu Jihad, then Yasser Arafat’s deputy and Fatah’s second-in-command, Pohl was to plan an abduction at the Cologne cathedral and in the city halls of several major German cities.

However, he was arrested in Munich in October 1972, and police confiscated grenades and firearms during that arrest. He was also found to be holding a threatening letter, meant to be sent to a German judge who had been in charge of investigating three of the massacre terrorists.

The police report exposed by Der Spiegel also indicates that Pohl helped the terrorists obtain weapons, possibly including those used in the massacre itself. “They originated from a very rare production line,” the report wrote of the seized arms, saying the arms included “Belgian casings and Swedish explosives, made only for Saudi Arabia.”

“Identical weapons were used by Palestinian terrorists to kill the hostages at the Olympics,” Der Spiegel added.

Pohl was sentenced to a short jail term for “unauthorized possession of firearms,” only to be released four days after his sentencing. Eventually, he made his way to Beirut.

According to Der Spiegel, German authorities feared terrorists would perpetrate an attack in order to release Pohl. Shortly after the September massacre, terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa plane, which prompted the release of three of the massacre’s planners from a German jail.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/neo-nazi-helped-plan-1972-munich-massacre-report-says-1.436998

By Rafael Medoff

JointMedia News Service, June 11, 2012

Shmuel Zygelbojm, a Jewish member of the London-based Polish Government in Exile, played a major role in publicizing the Bund Report. Photo: Courtesy of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

Seventy years ago this month America learned, for the first time, about the systematic mass murder of Europe’s Jews—but Allied officials and some leading newspapers downplayed the news.

In late 1941 and early 1942, Western diplomats and journalists received scattered information about Nazi massacres of many thousands of Jews in German-occupied Poland and Russia. But the news was difficult to confirm and sounded to many like the usual travails of war.

The turning point came in late May 1942, when a courier from the Jewish Socialist Bund of Poland reached England with a shocking report. It began: “From the day the Russo-German war broke out, the Germans embarked on the physical extermination of the Jewish population on Polish soil.”

The Bund Report stressed that the killings were not isolated outbursts, but part of a systematic plan to “annihilate all the Jews in Europe,” town by town, country by country. The report described how in villages throughout Poland and Western Russia, German troops marched the Jewish residents to a nearby forest or ravine and machine-gunned them into giant pits. The Bund also detailed the killing of Jews in the Chelmno camp in mobile death vans—trucks whose exhaust fumes were pumped back into the passenger cabin.

Some 700,000 Jews had already been murdered, the Bund Report calculated. At a follow-up press conference in June, World Jewish Congress officials in London reported that the death toll had passed one million. (The real number was already close to 2 million.)

BBC Radio devoted several broadcasts to the story, and the London Times and other British newspapers published it prominently. The response of the American press, however, was much weaker. The Chicago Tribune, for example, relegated the news to 11 lines on page 6, and reported vaguely that the Jews had perished as a result of “ill treatment” by the Germans. The Los Angeles Times gave it two paragraphs on page 3.

The coverage in the New York Times was particularly important because many other newspapers looked to the Times—as they still do—to decide if a particular story deserves attention. On June 27, the Times buried the Bund story at the end of a column of short news items from Europe. Five days later, the Times reported on the World Jewish Congress’s press conference—but the Times diluted the news by asserting that the death toll “probably includes many who died of maltreatment in concentration camps, starvation in ghettos or forced labor” rather than mass murder.

Then, on July 4, the Times tried to pull the rug out from under the Bund Report. An unsigned news analysis, published on page 4, claimed the Jewish death toll could be anywhere “from 100,000 to 1,500,000.” The Germans “treat the Jews according to whether they are productive or nonproductive,” the Times asserted. The high mortality rate among “nonproductive” Jews was due to “starvation and illtreatment” rather than mass executions. Eyewitness accounts of mass graves with 40,000 bodies at Zhitomir “appear to have been based on hearsay.”

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, longtime leader of the American Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations, refrained from calling on the Allied governments to take any steps to rescue European Jews.

Meanwhile, the Allies were trying to bury the story. A few weeks after the Bund Report arrived, officials of the U.S. Office of War Information and the British Ministry of Information began meeting in Washington under the auspices of their new Committee on War Information Policy. They decided to withhold news about Nazi massacres of Jews, lest it lead to “hatred of all members of the races guilty of such actions” or provoke retaliation against American POWs.

In response to the Bund Report, the American Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Labor Committee organized a rally at Madison Square Garden in July 1942 that drew a capacity crowd of 20,000. But AJC president Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the other speakers refrained from calling on the Allied governments to take any steps to rescue European Jews. The protest was limited to expressions of sorrow over the killing, and hope for a speedy Allied victory over the Nazis.

“It is somewhat difficult to put all the blame for complacency on British and American statesmen…when Jewish leaders made no visible attempt to put pressure on their governments for any active policy of rescue,” Prof. Yehuda Bauer, of Hebrew University and Yad Vashem, has written. “The Jewish leadership could hardly plead lack of knowledge.”

Bauer blames the restrained Jewish response on doubts about the news, “loyalty to President Roosevelt,” and “fear of arousing anti-Semitism if the United States were requested to act specifically in the interest of Jews in Europe.”

Prof. David S. Wyman, author of The Abandonment of the Jews, contends that Wise and other Jewish leaders “were still in shock—the news from Europe was so horrific, and so unprecedented, that it took time to understand and absorb it.” It would take several more months of such reports, and a grudging confirmation by the Roosevelt administration at the end of 1942, before Jewish leaders began proposing concrete plans for rescue—but even then, the struggle to bring about Allied action would prove formidable indeed.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, and coauthor, with Prof. Sonja Schoepf Wentling, of the new book “Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the ‘Jewish Vote’ and Bipartisan Support for Israel.”

http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/06/11/how-america-first-learned-of-the-holocaust/

Murdoch Confidante Recalls Chummy Ties With British Leaders
New York Times Blogs, May 11, 2012

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks leaves after giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics and practices of the media at the High Court in central London on Friday.

… So chummy were the relations between Britain’s political leaders and Rebekah Brooks, a former chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper subsidiary, that at one point Ms. Brooks found herself cheekily lecturing a future prime minister, David Cameron, about how to avoid humiliating himself by text message, she said.

“Occasionally he would sign them LOL — ‘lots of love,’ ” Ms. Brooks told the Leveson Inquiry on media ethics and practices, speaking of Mr. Cameron’s text messages to her when he was the leader of the opposition, “until I told him it meant ‘laugh out loud.’ Then he didn’t use that anymore.”

Ms. Brooks had been summoned to the inquiry to speak to its current focus: the relationship between politicians and the news media in Britain. The picture she painted was one of seemingly unfettered access for her and, implicitly, for her boss, Mr. Murdoch.

By her account, when political leaders were not arranging birthday parties for her or meeting her for cozy private dinners or sending her notes or attending her wedding, she was picking up the phone to chat with them — or sometimes to cajole or strong-arm them into seeing things her way.  …

FULL STORY: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/12/world/europe/rebekah-brooks-testify-leveson-inquiry.html?_r=1&hp

Rupert Murdoch’s big backer sounds News Corp warning

The Guardian, May 8, 2012

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been one of Rupert Murdoch’s staunchest supporters. Photograph: Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the second biggest shareholder in Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation, has revealed his frustration with the fallout from the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and admitted that it is harming the reputation of the company overall, not just its publishing interests.

Alwaleed is a nephew of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, and, according to Forbes magazine, is the 29th wealthiest person in the world, with a fortune of $18bn (£11bn). He owns large stakes in Citigroup, Apple, Canary Wharf and London’s Savoy hotel as well as 7% of the voting shares in News Corp, which on Wednesday announces its results for the three months to the end of March. Analysts expect profits to rise around 19% from the same quarter last year.

Alwaleed said that although News Corp was “very diversified,” with interests covering books, magazines, newspapers, television and film, the phone-hacking scandal was having a company-wide effect. “I really hope that this is behind us because really it is not helping the name of the company,” he said. “We hope that this page is folded and put behind us because really it is not something to be proud of.”

News Corp investors have voiced concerns about the phone-hacking scandal since it erupted last year and, at the company’s AGM in October, several shareholders, including powerful pension fund CalPERS, called for the appointment of an independent chairman. Murdoch currently holds the position of chairman alongside that of chief executive. Alwaleed is one of Murdoch’s staunchest supporters and had never before spoken publicly about the wider impact of the scandal. …

FULL STORY: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/may/08/murdoch-big-backer-news-corp?newsfeed=true

News Corp. Noose Tightens in the US

Hollywood Reporter – ‎May 10, 2012

It’s not just phone-hacking but also bribery allegations that have legal experts wondering just how much trouble the Murdochs face.

The News Corp. scandal is like a fast-moving wildfire that seems to be zero percent contained. Yet while many analysts on Wall Street don’t even smell smoke, there are several signs that the inferno could jump the Atlantic to its U.S. headquarters.

“We find it difficult to foresee meaningful problems for News Corp.’s non-U.K. assets, which represent the vast majority of News Corp.’s market capitalization,” BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield said in a May 1 report — the day that a British parliamentary panel found that CEO Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to run the company that he built.

But the developments are worrisome enough that one longtime media investor says he wouldn’t own News Corp. stock, even though the company’s assets are strong and the share price is relatively low. “I don’t want to own the sweater because the sweater is unraveling,” he says.

News Corp. faces multiple investigations in the U.S. that have the potential to lead to staggering fines and even criminal proceedings going all the way to the top. And British attorney Mark Lewis, who led the charge in representing hacking victims in U.K. litigation, has threatened civil lawsuits in this country, too, potentially leading to more bad publicity and payouts. …

FULL STORY: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/news-corp-rupert-murdoch-322632

Murdoch’s Shakespearean Tragedy

New Yorker (blog), May 9, 2012

Last Thursday, in Surrey, England, shortly after sunrise, British police  arrested a fifty-seven-year-old retired Scotland Yard detective. He was the  twenty-seventh person arrested in a bribery investigation known as Operation  Elveden, which is the most opaque but arguably the most important of the  multiple investigations of journalism and crime at News Corporation, the media  giant controlled by Rupert Murdoch. News Corp. has its headquarters in the  United States and is the parent company of Fox News, among other properties.

In comparison to the sensational revelations of phone and voicemail hacking  by News Corp. reporters in Britain—with alleged intrusions into the lives of the  British royal family and celebrities such as Elle Macpherson and Sienna  Miller—Operation Elveden lacks bold-faced names. It has the familiar grubbiness  of cash exchanged for favors.

Yet Elveden has the potential to upend News Corp. The known facts suggest  that behind a veil of police secrecy lies one of the most fraught and  treacherous crime and legal dramas ever to unfold inside a news organization.

Elveden’s investigators are looking into allegations that News Corp.  reporters bribed police, Army, and defense ministry officials—and possibly other  British officeholders—to win scoops and perhaps other business favors. That  means the evidence Elveden turns up could form the basis of charges in the  United States against News Corp. and its employees or executives under the  Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars American-based companies from paying  off “foreign officials” in order “to obtain or retain business.”

The investigation began last July, when a fresh series of allegations about  phone hacking became public. At that time, it was also alleged that reporters at  Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid newspaper had paid as many as five  police officers at least a hundred thousand pounds in cash in exchange for  information. The Justice Department and the S.E.C., urged on by Democratic  members of Congress, reportedly opened F.C.P.A. investigations in the U.S., and  Operation Elveden was born in Britain.

Since then, other investigations of News Corp. have delivered fresh jaw-dropping  testimony and records. Lowell Bergman’s terrific “Frontline” documentary, first broadcast in late  March, provides a primer. Last week, a British parliamentary committee added a  long and lively report about Murdoch’s earlier obfuscation before it and  concluded, in a split verdict, that Murdoch was not a “fit and proper” person to  have a broadcast license. …

FULL STORY: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/05/murdochs-shakespearean-tragedy.html

Murdoch Scandal – Classic Media Baron
Stuff.co.nz, May 7, 2012
FRONT MEN: James Murdoch and his father, News Corp Chief Executive and Chairman Rupert Murdoch, appear before the Leveson Inquiry in London. If the phone hacking scandal gripping Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire has a familiar ring,

Board ties to Slow Rupert’s Fall
Sydney Morning Herald, May 7, 2012‎
But there was little reflection last week by the board of News Corp, which met quickly the day after the committee’s report and announced ”its full confidence in Rupert Murdoch’s fitness and support for his continuing to lead News Corporation into the

Murdoch Tweets back against Campaign for FCC Probe

The Hill (blog), May 8, 2012

By Andrew Feinberg – 05/08/12 03:42 PM ET News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch isn’t pleased about a campaign to have the Federal Communications Commission review his broadcast licenses. Numerous public advocacy groups have called on Congress to

Rupert Murdoch still under Fire over Phone-Hacking Scandal 

CRIENGLISH.com – ‎May 8, 2012‎ – Earlier this month, a report by a UK Parliamentary Investigation Committee concluded that Rupert Murdoch, founder of the News Corporation, is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company. The report does not have the

The End of the Media Mogul? 

Deutsche Welle, May 8, 2012‎


British lawmakers declared Rupert Murdoch unfit to run a major international company. Does this mark the end of the all-powerful media mogul in a democratic society?   

Last week, British lawmakers found that Rupert Murdoch should take “ultimate responsibility” for the illegal practice of phone hacking that has corroded his global media empire.

A cross-party parliamentary committee said the 81-year-old lacked credibility, adding that his company was guilty of “willful blindness” toward its staff at the News of the World tabloid.

It’s the latest in a series of blows for the man who has held sway over British politics for decades.

In the report, his company’s British newspaper arm was also criticized for misleading parliament during its investigation into the hacking of phones belonging to prominent public figures and victims in high-profile crimes.

That scandal led to a public outcry against scandal-mongering journalism and to the closure of the Sunday tabloid News of the World last summer. Initially, “rogue reporters” were blamed for the incident, but it has since emerged that the practice was widespread. Several journalists from the mass-circulation Sun newspaper, also owned by Murdoch, have now been arrested over allegations of phone hacking and bribery. …

FULL STORY: http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,15936495,00.html

By Callie Brazil

Force Change. May 30

Goals: Support the efforts of small farmers in Mexico working against a law that would undermine farmers’ rights, and tell the Mexican Government to resist industry-friendly legislation in the future. A contingent of farmers in Mexico is taking on agri-business corporations, like the infamous Monsanto, that are trying to monopolize seed and food patents through the passing of legislation. In the ongoing battle between small farmers and agricultural monopolies, round one belongs to the little guy. …